What a season. Last weekend state championship games drew the 2016 chapter shut, in what was a very wacky, quick, and entertaining football season around the Bay Area. This season had just about everything: upsets, competitive districts, crazy playoff scenarios, and even a couple of hurricanes to screw up the scheduling. Here’s just some of the most memorable moments of the 2016 football season.
There were some surprises in Pasco County this season.
In what was a very strong year for Pasco, there were a couple of teams that had pretty interesting events play out. First, we have to talk about River Ridge’s best season in school history, advancing on to the 5A Regional Finals, but losing to Clay in that round. That district the Royal Knights were a part of, 5A-8, was particularly strong with a 7-2 Wesley Chapel being snubbed out of the playoffs under first-year head coach Anthony Egan, as well as a 6-4 Hudson squad that had a great year. Even Anclote had a chance to nab a playoff spot early in the year.
In 6A-6, Mitchell grabbed their second district championship in a row while Sunlake was out of the playoffs for the first time since 2012. The lone Pasco team in 7A, Wiregrass Ranch, found their second playoff spot in school history, but were knocked out in the first round against a tough Lakeland team.
Cade Weldon’s bounce-back year was pretty nice.
When the Miami commit returned to the field in his senior season after injuring his knee in the first week of last season, he was ready to bring some honor back to Jefferson High. Although they didn’t get past the second round, his arm certainly brought them some notoriety. Weldon was 169-for-276 with 3,135 yards and 19 touchdowns, which helped his Dragons achieve a 7-4 final record. The senior finished his career with 5,244 yards and 54 total touchdowns.
The power has started to shift in Manatee County.
When Manatee came out in the spring, they defeated Countryside pretty easily. When they finished the season 7-4, we started to wonder what was going on. The defense was young, and they were eliminated by the 8A runner-up in Dr. Phillips. Look at the classification below the Hurricanes. 7A-11 was incredibly competitive in 2016, with Palmetto on the outside looking in. Manatee defeated Palmetto 7-3 on Labor Day, which some said may have hurt the ‘Canes more than it did the Tigers, but it was raining, everybody for Palmetto wasn’t playing, and it was non-district.
Inside of 7A-11, Palmetto finished third at 6-4, while Braden River finished second at 9-2 – their only loss in the regular season coming against state semi-finalist Venice. We’ve been asking for a Braden River – Manatee matchup since the end of last season when the Pirates won a regional championship, but we may not get that since Manatee was reclassified into 8A-6 for the next two seasons. It leaves you to wonder about what the result would be if those two played – especially with the senior core of Manatee graduating this spring.
There was a new 6A Finalist.
Nick Lutz was responsible for defeating Armwood in the final seconds of Lake Gibson’s second round matchup with the Hawks, which was the first time since 2012 that a team NOT under the coaching of Sean Callahan entered the 6A Final from the Bay Area. Miami Central didn’t make the playoffs at all, which opened the door for Carol City, but the year that Lake Gibson had was something to admire. The Braves only loss before Saturday was to Lakeland in the Kickoff Classic. Doug DeMyer (now 6A Coach of the Year) led the team to the perfect 13-0 record before Saturday in his first year, which is something we certainly didn’t expect.
East Lake made a nice run in the playoffs.
Playing in a district with St. Petersburg and Pinellas Park isn’t easy to come out with a playoff spot, but the Eagles continued their playoff streak, with their eighth consecutive appearance. From there, East Lake took down Durant in a 14-7 defensive battle in round one, and then tackled Tampa Bay Tech in the second round to advance to a regional final. They met Venice and were defeated easily, but it was certainly nice to see the Eagles make some moves in the playoffs this season.
It took a little while, but Malik Davis took his record and ran with it.
Jesuit was glad to have Davis running for them and not against them in the run to two consecutive 5A Final Four appearances. The hallmark for him, however, was to become the Hillsborough County All-Time Leading Rusher, passing Ray Ray McCloud, who set the bar a couple years prior. Davis did it in a 56-3 blowout of Robinson, but his final totals were astounding. His 2,469 rushing yards in 2016 set him just over 7,000 in his career, finishing with 7,029 with 83 rushing touchdowns in four years. Florida will get a special running back next season.
Dane Frantzen did it all for Plant.
In a year that a lot of people doubted if the Panthers would be able to win their district, much less make the 7A Final, Frantzen made sure those people were eating their words at the end of the season. At the beginning of the offseason, we weren’t even sure if he would get the starting job. When he got it, he proved he deserved it. Frantzen was the only quarterback in the Bay Area to have both over 2,000 passing yards and 1,000 rushing yards, accounting for the majority of the Panthers points and yards. He was a tone setter for the Panthers, a special guy in the locker room, even if he only stands at 5’11”.
Remember the time there was a nine overtime game in the playoffs?
I don’t think anybody can’t forget the marathon game between Clearwater Central Catholic and Melbourne Central Catholic in round two of the 3A playoffs. The Marauders and Hustlers both had 21 points in regulation – both scored over 40 in the nine overtime periods. The game set a state record for most overtime periods in a playoff game.
Hurricanes ruled the majority of the football season.
Manatee, Palm Harbor University, and Bishop McLaughlin all had over .500 seasons, but those aren’t the hurricanes I’m referring to. Hurricane Hermine ravaged the Bay Area with torrential downpours in September that cancelled games all over the place, and Hurricane Matthew did the same in October, which paralyzed the East Coast of Florida. They were the first hurricanes to directly impact Florida in over a decade, and they certainly didn’t spare football from being played.
This season has been certainly one of the most memorable with the ups and down, but thank you fans for letting us bring you all of the action over the past season. We’ve enjoyed every second of it, and we’re already getting ready for what lies ahead in 2017.